Stress Free Outdoor Entertaining

Now that the days are getting longer and the nights are becoming warmer, it’s time to start thinking about planning outdoor parties to welcome in the new season. It’s a joyous way to celebrate spring with friends and family. But planning and pulling off the perfect outdoor get-together that is beautifully appointed and designed involves planning and execution, bringing with it some degree of stress.

Whether your space is a patio, deck, back yard, beach, or pool area, here are some design ideas for hosting an outdoor party so you can spend your time with your guests, not in the kitchen or fretting over details.

Set the Tone with Lighting

String Lights
Nothing beats delightful strands of string lights to create a special mood. Perfect for the patio, deck, or back yard, this low-voltage accent lighting instantly provides an intimate ambiance. Choose brands that are waterproof so you can leave them out all summer, without having to spend time hanging them right before your guests arrive. Long-lasting LED bulbs, and lights that are battery or solar-powered and rechargeable, will minimize an investment of your time and energy.

Paper Lanterns
For a festive look, there’s nothing better than paper lanterns. In addition to being colorful and fun, they are inexpensive and easy to install. They are available in a large variety of sizes, shapes, and colors that can easily be mixed and matched, and can be hung from string lights. Individual battery-operated lanterns can be placed just about anywhere. There are also plug-in and solar-powered options.

There are so many types of candles to choose from: votive, tea light, pillar, and taper, to name a few. Try using large pillar candles because they last a long time and won’t drip. Votive candles can be placed inside decorative lanterns for a delightful accent. You can use flameless candles, a great choice because they provide a candlelit ambiance without blowing out. The best quality ones offer realistic flickering, can be controlled remotely or used with timers, and are waterproof.

You can always get creative by making your own unique design, using mason jars or assorted glass bottles filled with candles or tea lights.

The Comfort Factor

Your guests’ comfort is key to the success of your event. You can offer them cozy places to sit and help them brave the elements if the weather doesn’t cooperate, without compromising a tasteful design.

If your guests outnumber your matching chairs, not to worry! Outdoor dining tends to be less formal than entertaining indoors, so don’t be shy about mixing and matching seating options. Indoor furniture can come to the rescue, from dining room chairs to stools, poufs, and cubes. An assortment of colorful outdoor seat cushions will provide an inviting look, offer additional comfort, and encourage guests to linger around the table.

Be prepared for hot, sticky weather with rotating floor fans to cool people off and keep the mosquitos at bay. There are many options for outdoor fans, including floor, table, and tower fans. If you choose waterproof fans so you can leave them outdoors, make sure they are rated “wet” rather than “damp” so they can weather even the worst rainstorms. Galvanized steel is a good coating option, providing a sleek aesthetic as well as maximum durability. Patio misters can be added for an additional cooling option.

For cool nights, be prepared with a firepit, which is easy to install and available in a wide variety of attractive options that will enhance your outdoor décor. A firepit will extend your entertaining season in the spring and fall, and keep you warm and comfortable even when you are not entertaining. Be prepared with a supply of cozy blankets and shawls, and layered rugs for the floor.

Inclement Weather

There are a number of attractive, affordable pop-up canopies on the market. They come in a variety of colors as well as frame and cover materials, and can often be assembled in minutes with just one or two people. If you go this route, you can decorate your tent with festive string lights, paper lanterns, or colorful streamers.

Another option is purchasing waterproof outdoor umbrellas. There are hundreds of delightful, decorative options on the market. Otherwise, make sure you are prepared to move your party indoors, especially on quick notice if rain suddenly moves in. If it’s windy out, try a set of charming tablecloth weights that will add a lovely accent to the table, or simply forego a tablecloth altogether.

Disposable Dinnerware and Utensils

One of the downsides of entertaining is the clean-up. Clearing plates can take you away from your guests and be a huge distraction. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as elegant disposable plates and cutlery. They have come a long way since the days of cheap paper plates and plastic forks purchased from the convenience store. In addition to being available in thousands of different colors, patterns, and looks, they are hygienic, economical, and environmentally friendly. They come in a variety of materials, including plastic, bio-plastic, wood, bamboo, and even palm leaf, wheat bran, and sugar cane residue.

Today, you can find unlimited choices, including plates with designs, so sophisticated they look like ceramic plates. You can find ones that are not only strong, resistant, and suitable for hot foods, but also biodegradable. There are plastic glasses that look like crystal, and cutlery that could pass as actual stainless steel. Disposable trays in standard aluminum are great for dry foods such as bread and canapes.

You can complete your elegant table setting with strong, multi-layered napkins, which you can even fold into fun shapes if you make the time for a quick YouTube video. You can complete the look with a disposable tablecloth, with thousands of available options.

So there you have it – some great ideas for hosting a festive, hassle-free, and beautifully designed outdoor party. Happy summer!


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Maria Loveless and her team have worked with many clients since 2007 to create beautiful and functional spaces in North Virginia and Fairfax County. Call today for a creative, transforming experience.

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